Kiss and Tell

To some kids, being affectionate comes easily. Maddux, for instance, has been saying “I love you” since forever. And once Thomas mastered the high-five, he moved on to blowing kisses.

James, on the other hand, has been reluctant to come around. He was nearly 3 before he uttered the phrase “I love you” for the first time, and until last month, I was pretty sure he would never kiss anyone without a gun pressed to his temple.

But one night, as I was leaving his room after tucking him in, James proclaimed with a big smile, “Mommy, I give you kiss!”

Well, far be it from me to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime offer! I knelt down obligingly for a sloppy kiddo kiss.

Now, most kids will just pucker up and kiss their parents. But James is very meticulous about the whole thing. With his lips extended for maximum drooly contact, he roots around on my cheek for the perfect place to plant a wet one, breathing hotly in my ear all the while. Sometimes he unpuckers and re-puckers his lips just to make sure they’re in firing position.

Finally, once he has found the exact center of my cheek, he opens his mouth, checks it with his tongue just to make sure he’s right (this takes approximately 3 to 5 seconds, accompanied by yet more heavy breathing), and then, after all of this drooling and hot breath, he pulls his lips AWAY from the target cheek and makes a kissing noise in the air.

After this several-minute process, he is then ready to kiss the other cheek. (And heaven forbid that the kiss or his bedtime routine in general is interrupted — that requires that the whole process begin afresh.)

A few days into my now-nightly kiss routine with James, I noticed that while he was searching my cheek for the perfect place to lay a smooch on it, he was whispering something very quietly under his breath. Not wanting to jinx my new sloppy-goodnight-kiss routine, I didn’t ask my son what he was whispering.

Days turned into weeks. James was now asking for stories and new songs in addition to his insistence on covering my face in slobber and toothpaste-sweet baby breath. And still, I couldn’t quite make out his whispers.

Finally, tonight, he leaned toward me with sparking eyes and grabbed either side of my face with a chubby little hand.

“Come here, Mommy,” James smiled. “I kiss your little tongue.”

“You’re going to kiss my cheek?” (James is still a little confused about all the different parts of the face.)

“Yes,” James corrected himself. “I kiss your little chin.”

And then, as he leaned toward me, warm breath whispering those mysterious nothings once more as his drooly little mouth grazed my cheek, I just barely made out the words, “I don’t bite Mommy’s ears off.”

So maybe I can’t count on James to remind me constantly that he loves me, or to blow me kisses. But at least I can rest assured that he won’t be gnawing off my face, either. And I can’t say I’ve received that promise from the other two

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